My friends….the Grizzled Ol’ Coach, Mike Morris, and I were pondering this point at a recent Skull Session in the FishDuck ManCave, as it gets to the root of many concerns Oregon fans have had–especially with all the seasons spoiled in the past by injured QBs at Oregon. This article lays the foundation for upcoming articles by the GOC and I. Charles Fischer
“How often do I use my quarterback on designed QB running plays?”
That’s the biggest offensive decision for Coach Willie Taggart and his staff face as they prepare for the 2017 season. To me, and way more importantly to CWT, it’s a no-brainer. ”Enough to make Oregon a ‘GREAT’ offensive football team.”
I’m sure most of you Duck fans are way ahead of me on this, but think back; since the dawn of the Chip Kelly spread, were the Ducks ever “great” on offense without significant running plays by their QB?
Dennis Dixon? Damn good passer his senior year, but it was his keeper runs that really gashed defenses, and, barring that knee injury, gave him a shot at the Heisman.
Jeremiah Masoli? Very good running back skills allowed a guy with limited passing ability to be a very good, many-wins-producing, college QB.
Darron Thomas? Just enough, good-not-great, running ability to significantly hurt defenses that cheated to defend the Ducks’ running back, and earned a 24-3 record for a QB the NFL had no interest in..
The great Marcus Mariota? Both he and the Oregon offense weren’t nearly so great when Marcus couldn’t effectively run with the ball.
Vernon Adams? The freakish exception. But do you really want to count on “miraculous” passes to win games?
Also consider the other guys’ QBs; it seems so many times the Ducks’ defense was significantly hurt by the opponents’ QBs effectively running the ball.
In recent years what do Lamar Jackson, Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin, Cam Newton, and Tim Tebow have in common . . . besides winning the Heisman? That’s a rhetorical question. I’ve just watched Clemson’s dual-threat QB, Deshaun Watson; have a great game against Ohio State.
But it’s important for me to talk about HOW the Ducks’ QB runs with the ball. It must be in a “deceptive/misdirection” way that limits the amount of tacklers who’ll have a shot at the QB. Colorado very often ran their QB, Sefo Liufau, usually without deception, and it seemed Liufau was always hurt. Even Urban Meyer uses his QB too often on no-deception running plays.
Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich have been real good at adding deception/misdirection to QB running plays. But I still think there’s significant room to improve the effectiveness of the Ducks’ offense by better usage of a running QB and misdirection.
Remember, an effective running QB – even the “threat” of a dangerous running QB – (possibly even going in the opposite direction of the intended play) is the best friend a running back can have [besides his offensive linemen].
Defensive coaches love to talk about their guys “flying to the ball” and aggressively “gang tackling”. But it’s hard to do that if you don’t know who has the ball, or to play aggressive defense if the defenders are confused and/or tired from chasing fake ball carriers. There’s a football saying, “One great fake can equal two great blocks.”
Willie Taggart realized the importance of deception in 2015, as he installed his “Gulf Coast” [now “Pacific Coast”] Offense. CWT didn’t want to lose the “smash-mouth” nature of his Harbaugh-like offense when he changed to the spread formation. He just didn’t want to only run inside-zone-reads and pass the ball.
What CWT joyfully found was that the deception/misdirection [“smoke and mirrors”] created by the shot-gun QB’s potential runs, and a back in sudden motion actually enhanced the effectiveness of his power running attack.
On Wednesday, Charles Fischer is going to start an analysis of a series of plays from the South Florida offense of 2016. A “series,” is meaning a play that starts in one direction, but can then end up becoming several different plays, or going in different directions.
It’s USF’s Jet Sweep Series. And I think it’s the greatest series in football. Don’t be intimidated by X’s and O’s; appreciate how hard it will be for a defense to stop all the aspects of this Jet Sweep Series. (And Charles will make it an easy ten minute read)
BUT remember, in order to run this series – and several other wonderfully deceptive plays – the Ducks must make their QB a running back. As is often heard, “Herbert’s no Mariota”. Who is? Watch the plays Quinton Flowers ran so well at USF; I think Justin Herbert will do just fine running those plays because of their deceptive nature — and his under-estimated speed and size. The Ducks wouldn’t have defeated Utah this year without Herbert’s running plays. And part of why they lost to OSU was that Herbert never carried the ball.
In USF’s recent bowl game, there were two different versions of the USF offense on display: “exciting” before Flowers hurt his hand and “pretty inept after his injury. For me it was Deja vu all over again, as if watching the Ducks.. This offense MUST have a “damn good” running QB to be really effective.
This is also a huge reason why Terry Wilson and/or Travis Jonsen are very important to the success of the 2017 Ducks. An injured, handicapped Justin Herbert shouldn’t be more effective than his back-up.
As Duck fans, isn’t our goal for Oregon to be GREAT? Well they’ll never achieve that greatness unless they make their QB’s running ability a dangerous, intelligently used weapon.
Retired Coach Mike Morris
Pleasant Hill, Oregon
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